In a report appearing today at Sina.com, Southern Weekend exposes a provisional system used at a local party newspaper in Anhui Province since October 18 that makes promotion of journalists conditional on “positive reports” recognized by national level media. The Southern Weekend article details a system that seems to work as an official glass ceiling for journalists seeking promotion to higher positions and offers an inside look at how local governments are working to tighten control of the news at party publications.

In a section on professional assessments for “high-level” (高级) reporters and editors (a specific employment designation) the so-called “provisional standards” for promotion at the party newspaper of an unnamed “prefectural city” in Anhui include the following requirements: “Every year no less than three positive articles about Anhui should appear in major central media, and no less than 30 articles for employees engaged full-time in supplying major central media”. By major central media, the guidelines refer to People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, Economic Daily, China Central Television and China People’s Radio, according to Southern Weekend.

“Emphasizing positive news” is a key rule of China’s propaganda regime. An Anhui official explained use of the word “positive” in the requirements by saying they referred to reports written in line with another key propaganda concept, “correct guidance of public opinion”.

“As for those masters holding high-level positions, if they’re not familiar with specific policies, how can they keep a grasp on correct guidance of public opinion?” Southern Weekend quoted one local official as saying in defense of the standards.

While Southern Weekend’s report is not overtly critical, it focuses on the difficulties faced by journalists working under such rules. The report opens as a story about one journalist (name changed in the report) whose promotion is barred by the new rules. We’ll have to wait and see how the authorities respond to this frank airing of propaganda rules which does not take their legitimacy for granted.

Top COMMENTS at Sina.com (4:02pm):

I encourage them to write fake stuff.
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As an Anhui resident I have no words!
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As a national citizen I have no words!!
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This is how officialdom is in Anhui, they’re all mediocre. The old heroes have been sent away, or co-opted.
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These kinds of leaders should be removed!!

[Posted by David Bandurski, October 26, 2006, 4:00pm]